Wednesday, November 06, 2019

When robust debate becoms abuse

Sometimes two things which are important and indeed essential can also be challenging to reconcile.

An example is the importance of Free Speech, and the fact that we need more civility and tolerance in politics.

I believe that in my adult lifetime the level of freedom of speech within this country and elsewhere has decreased, is decreasing and ought to be increased.

But I also believe that abusive behaviour towards people of different political views is an extremely bad thing, and as Charlotte Henry argued in a recent article, is driving good people out of politics.

It must surely be possible to argue very robustly against opinions or policies you think are wrong, or to make strong fact-based criticism of the record of a party and its leaders at national or local level, without crossing over the line from political criticism to personal abuse.

But I do not think that, as a country, we are doing very well at finding the right place to draw that line.

This is not a party political point: people in every part of the political spectrum need to think more about what they say and write.

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